Essay: Epistemology and Skepticism in Films

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¶ … Truman Show directed by Peter Weir. Specifically it will discuss how the film raises the issue of appearances differing from reality, and how that affects the skeptic and the true believer in all of us. Truman Burbank is a true innocent in this film, trusting those around him and his own perceptions to be the truth. However, they are not. Truman is actually the victim of an elaborate hoax, and has been his entire life. The film makes the viewer think about reality, and how we perceive reality, and it raises questions about beliefs, skepticism, and how trusting each of us is when it comes to the people around us, as well.

This film presents an alternate reality that the skeptic would immediately recognize as impossible, and yet, by persuading the viewer that the situation has occurred throughout Truman's life, and he has accepted it, it shows how reality can become blurred with fiction, and that fiction can be maintained when the subjects are true believers, kind, and think only the best of those around them. That describes Truman in a nutshell. He is a good man - kind, caring, concerned about others, and genuinely nice, if a bit naive. He has no reason to question the reality around him, and he has no reason to believe anything but good about the people in his little town. He lives a charmed and happy life, even if it is not real.

Truman represents the good in everyone, and that is one reason the premise of the film works. However, as he begins to question the reality around him, and his own life, he becomes the skeptic, wondering if anything around him can be taken at face value, and of course, it cannot. Truman's case is fiction, and the skeptic would say that no one could possibly believe a life that was so "perfect" in every way. The skeptic would question the "reality" of Truman's world from the start, and actually come to the correct conclusion that it was nothing but a fantasy set up for the entertainment of others at the expense of Truman. All the other actors have "lives," (except, perhaps his wife), and they go home at the end of the day just like any other person. The skeptic would question how so many people could possibly keep such a convoluted secret, and why Truman had not figured it out ages ago. The skeptic would question Truman's goodness, and question whether anyone could possibly be that "good." That is the problem with skepticism, the skeptics cannot see good, even if it exists, while the true believers touch the other end of the spectrum, unable to see bad, or evil, even if it is all around them. That is why a little bit of both makes a person a bit more centered and able to see both sides of an issue.

The true believer would see Seahaven much as Truman does an idyllic spot where anything is possible (except leaving, of course). A true believer probably would never begin to question the perfection of this little town, as Truman does, they would simply accept things for what they were and never believe anything can go wrong. The film draws the viewer to question their own views and beliefs about reality, and that of course, is the point. The viewer has to think about what they would do in the same situation, and what they would believe, or question.

Because Truman is so likeable, the viewer (like the fictional audience in the film), roots for him to discover the truth, because it is clear he is being victimized and exploited. When he becomes suspicious, the audience wants him to learn what is really happening, mostly because he is a nice guy and this should not be happening to him. Thus, the film creates goodness in the people watching, too, because they begin to care about Truman and his feelings, and they want him to get out of the fantasy and begin to live a "real" life (if that ever could be possible for him.)

Reality is at the core of this film, and it illustrates that what is entirely real for one person can be another person's fantasy. The film makes the viewer question how they see reality, but also, the core theme is what is reality, really? Truman's life is entirely real to him, and until he begins to question his surroundings and some… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Epistemology and Skepticism in Films.  (2008, July 12).  Retrieved July 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/epistemology-skepticism-films/8963798

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"Epistemology and Skepticism in Films."  Essaytown.com.  July 12, 2008.  Accessed July 20, 2019.
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